Day 13 of our 21 Days to Building a Better Ballplayer brings a task that many athletes know they should be doing, but often do not “find the time” to implement. So, today’s task is to start and maintain a strength training program.
Practice, Play, Practice, Play
It always amazes me how much time, money, and effort parents and young ballplayers put into trying out for every travel ball team and playing year round. Yet, they make no such effort in starting, learning, and implementing a strength and conditioning program. Baseball is already a sport prone to injury because of how repetitive and unidirectional it is. Add on top of that more practices, more games, and more private lessons, and it’s only a matter of time before Little Johnny breaks down. Don’t get me wrong. I think athletes need to work on their skills (throwing, hitting, fielding, etc.) to improve. However, too much specificity can lead to imbalances and imbalances can lead to injury. A good strength and conditioning program can address these imbalances and serve to keep a player injury free.
If a young ballplayer can learn the importance of strength and conditioning at an early age, then not only will he stay healthier, but he will have a tremendous advantage over his peers. When beginning any strength program, athletes should be able to master their own body weight before picking up a dumbbell or bar. If you cannot master your own body, then you are not ready for a barbell. Instead, begin with bodyweight squats, push-ups, lunges, and pull-ups. Your biggest concern should be form, form, form. Master the simple movements and then progress to more challenging ones.
When you are ready to move on to using weights or if you are an older athlete who has some experience in the weight room, then it’s time to start incorporating squats, deadlifts, and other functional movements. Find a solid strength and conditioning facility in your area and look for a program that teaches fundamentals and demands commitment.
Off-Season, Pre-Season, and In-Season Training
Depending on the time of year, your needs and goals in the weight room will vary. The off-season is your time to get as strong as possible. In addition to lifting, you should be working on your mobility, flexibility, and ironing out any imbalances you may have. During the pre-season (6-8 weeks leading up to the start of the season), your training should be kicking in to high gear so you can start off the upcoming season with a bang. Once the season begins, your in-season training routine becomes mostly about maintaining strength and staying injury free. I touched on these different times of year in a previous post, so you can read more about it here.
Stay Committed, Stay Consistent
So, your actual task for today is simple. If you are not currently on a strength and conditioning program, get started today. Again, you can do push-ups, bodyweight squats, pull-ups, and lunges. Look into a good shoulder tubing routine as well. If you do have a strength and conditioning routine you follow, then work to be as consistent and committed to it as possible. No more missing training sessions or skipping your pre-hab work. No one rep, one set, or one day will make you substantially better. It is the accumulation of all the small tasks done well consistently that add up to great results.